Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Money Neurosis of the Week

Is this weird? When I use cash to buy something in a deli or supermarket and the change is only one or two pennies, I always have this weird moment of self-consciousness if I already have my bag in hand and am just standing there waiting for my one or two cents of change. I wonder if the cashier thinks, "oh please, why are you waiting for this one stupid penny." I mean, a lot of people probably just walk away, right? Sometimes I think the cashier hesitates, because they assume I won't wait for the penny-- that extra delay makes it even more embarrassing to wait! Often there is this consciousness of the likely class/income difference between me and this cashier-- this is probably one-sided most of the time as I don't tend to be walking around in clothing or jewelry that screams "earns $100k" vs "earns $20k," but maybe sometimes they'd look at me and think "this lady probably earns a lot more money than me, why is she wasting her time waiting for a penny? I'd be outta here by now!" But then I tell myself there is no reason to be embarrassed, it's my hard-earned penny and there is no reason to walk away from it. If I want to donate it to someone, it shouldn't be to a for-profit retail business! And if I'm willing to pick coins up on the street, why wouldn't I take one from a relatively clean cash register drawer? And on and on... I can't seem to avoid thinking about it! Sometimes I wish my brain had a mute button...

33 comments:

Kizz said...

I have the same conversation with myself all the time.

frugal zeitgeist said...

I have no problem whatsoever with this. Pennies add up.

Also, people are almost never thinking about other people and behavior to the extent that we think they are. Once the cashier hands you your change, he or she has already mentally moved on.

Adrienne said...

This must be a NY thing or something. I have NO problem getting for my pennies, and shame on the cashier who holds me up supposing I won't want them. Heck, I've had cashiers give ME pennies because they don't feel like making the change for something like $.98. I have no problem with that either.

As frugal zeitgeist said, pennies add up. I know because I take save all my change in coin jars. I NEVER use coins to pay. At the end of the month I usually have a good $20-$40 in rolls to take to the bank. So yes, I care about my pennies.

Susy said...

I used to feel that way, but no longer. A penny saved is a penny earned (plus they come in handy for library fines).

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm the penny-waiting type as well. My problem is when the cashier close the register assuming I wouldn't want the change. The most was 17 cents. When I ask her for change, she gave me a look!
Just a few days ago, I bought something at $5.64. I gave the owner of the gift store a $10, and 3 nickles to reduce change in my pocket. She only gave me $4.50 instead of $4.51! So I said, "This isn't right." She just said, "Do you really want the penny?" I was a bit angry. That was my hard earn cash!

Legallyblondemel said...

I often think that very thing. And then mentally smack myself & wait for the penny anyways.

As someone noted above, no one is thinking as much about us as we think or hope they are. Even if they are, a penny is a penny is an eventual dollar, etc., so let them think or not as they please.

Middle Class Hick said...

Well it was Ben Franklin who said "A penny saved is a penny earned." If you trace inflation from his age, a penny would be worth a lot more today (like, lets say, $10).

As someone who worked retail and food in my younger years, I can say, definitely, that I never cared about what people did with their money, I only cared when they tried to stiff me. Things like they would pay something $11.58 with $11.55 and then get all huffy when I ask for the other $0.03. My mind wondered to the more mundane things like the lady who came into my pizza joint daily, all of 300 pounds, and would order 3 small pizzas and a small diet coke every day. I had more pity on her than thought about what she paid her meals with (usually a CC :)

For me it is simple, if they don't take CC .. I don't shop/eat there. I don't carry more than a few dollars in cash, and I pay my balance off at the end of the month with one cheque ("check" for you Americans).

The simplest way to to fix this is to have taxes added tot he price, prior to getting to the register, and then you can round to the nearest $0.05 .. Then penny's wont be needed any more.

Gord said...

And someone once said, "Take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."

At the base of this scenario though, is the likelihood that IF the cashier was actually wondering why on earth you would wait for a penny.........he or she will likely always be working a minimum wage job and wondering why the world has passed them by.

julia1211 said...

I wait for my pennies. My coin jar is waiting for them at home, then it's off to the bank when the jar is filled.

Kemkem said...

Oh thank goodness, l always thought it was just me! I still wait for the penny anyway. Sometimes, l have to ring the register at work and l always make sure to give people back their penny change. It's only right, plus l hate the cash register coming up short or over...

Melanie said...

Lots of affirmation to the comments above including the fact that not too many people are paying that much attention to me. What IS embarrassing is being out with my change-hound friend who will get down on all fours (euwe)to reach waaaay under a vending machine or something to snag a penny. I don't mind that she picks up coins (only if I don't beat her to it) but I am mildly embarrassed when she roots around like that for what seems like forever. Afterward I want to spray her down with disinfectant! I'm not sure why that embarrasses me but waiting for my pennies doesn't.

I guess I need to think about that.

Anonymous said...

On a $50K salary you make around $.007 cents a second. Time is money.

Melanie, your penny searching friend seems more OCD than money savvy.

Sorry I don't wait for my pennys, but my pennies lost are balanced out by the pennies taken from the "give a penny, take a penny tray".

Someone mentioned it must be a NY thing, so I must mentioned that yes I am a New Yorker.

BD said...

I think this is all in your head! It's your penny, and you're completely entitled to it. If anybody ever challenges you about why you're waiting (not that I think they ever will, or should), just tell them you're going to drop it into your favorite fountain later.

Bill M said...

Weird feeling, I was thinking about this the other day.

ToniAnnette said...

If it's mine...I want it. Whether it's one penny or two or three.

Broke MBA said...

I'm not embarrassed to wait for my penny at the cash register. But I am somewhat self conscious when it comes to my other "cheap" habits. Often, my self consciousness prohibits me from doing what I would like to do. For example, I think about clipping coupons for my groceriers all the time, but must admit I am terrified of holding up the check-out line when matching my coupons to the items I purchased. I can just imagine all of the impatient glares that would be directed my way. It's silly really.

mOOm said...

5 cents is the smallest coin in this country and cashiers always give the correct change.

Anonymous said...

You're not weird! I wonder the same thing!! I always wait for my change, because I know every penny counts! But I do feel self-conscious waiting around for one penny.

Sometimes on my way to work, I stop at the coffee shop for a $1.99 coffee. Even though I may have two singles in my pocket, I've handed the cashier a $5 bill intentionally. Because it's expected that you'd wait for $3.01 change, and much less embarrassing than to stand around waiting for a penny. Silly? yes.

Anonymous said...

I know of a very developer who came to North America as an immigrant with nothing. From the time he started to accumulate savings, he never passed or passed up a single penny and he credits that respectful approach to money as one of the reasons he is wealthy..

H said...

I'm the same way too! For a while, I tried walking away from the penny, but that just felt wrong too.

Anonymous said...

My local grocery store generally have a small pile of pennies lying next to the cash register that they use towards people who are a penny or two short so I never wait for my pennies. The way I see it, I am not giving it to the store but to the next man or woman in line and thoughtfulness doesn't have to be limited to tax deductible donations. Most people in my local store seem to do the same too (i.e. not wait for a few pennies).

Picking up change I see a little differently, although I have never done it, because if someone didn't pick it up it will probably get kicked into a gutter somewhere and be lost. It's better that it's found and put to use.

I should declare in the interest of full disclosure though that I am not a New Yorker but reside in the laidback Pacific NW. Maybe it's a cultural thing. :)

TJ said...

I figure my "secondly" wage works out to about 1.3 cents per second, or 1 cent/second after taxes. I have no problem leaving if it's less than 5 cents change and it's not a "fun" establishment. I'd rather enjoy the sunshine for a moment. Yes that adds up to about $3 a year in lost change, but those sunshine moments will hopefully reduce my stress levels and prevent a life-threatening heart attack some day (and those sorts of things tend to be very costly if you know what I mean!).

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Chad @ Sentient Money said...

I think the same thing now and then, though I always wait for the penny or two. They do add up.

No, I don't live in NYC. I don't think it's a NYC thing.

guinness416 said...

Oh boy, I'm like you in this regard too, although I'm neurotic generally anyway. It's these little stresses that'll add up to get us in the end!

Rachel said...

I always feel weird about this too! Usually when at the deli I pay with a $10 or $20, so I tend to escape the issue there. The times when I find myself waiting for a penny or two (usually when buying eggs as I have to make a special trip in NYC to get reasonably priced eggs)I'm also waiting for the receipt. I keep track of my expenses, so the receipt is pretty necessary.

bugbear said...

I always like being identifiable as part of the club that takes care o f its money and knows how to turn pocket change into something of value.

I can eat on $3.88 per day on average, so of course I will care about getting my pennies back. A few weeks' worth of pennies could pay for an entire days' food for me.

Also, when I'm on the other side of the transaction (I work retail) I can often tell who the people are who really value and steward their money, versus those who have little clue as to their actual money situation.

In the end, the penny probably doesn't matter much (as its value can be quantified to a level of x value over a lifetime, which is fairly low) but the stewardship attitude pays off on a larger scale because it affects every part of your life. People who take care of their pennies are also taking care of the other things, is what I think. although sometimes it is possible to spend too much time on the pennies, while ignoring some big things, like underearning. both aspects of personal finance should be equally strong if a person is going to get the best results.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Chica..If i'm in a rush and my changes is only 2 cents, then I'll forgo it. Otherwise I want all my change since I work hard. Also I like getting my receipt regard less if I pay more than 50 cents for an item.

PennySeeds.com said...

I've never thought about waiting for change before. This could be from the way I was raised though.

If a store accidentally shorted my mother a dime she would go back, and wait in line at customer service to get it. She'd just tell me "Well, what if everyone that came in here lost a dime! Do you know how many dimes that is!?"

SingleGuyMoney said...

I don't usually carry cash but I am the same way. I used to worry about what people behind me would think if I waited for my penny. Now I will wait as long as it takes to get my penny, even if they have to go get a new roll of change. It's MY money and I want to be the one who gets it.
http://www.singleguymoney.com

Taisha said...

I am a cashier and I consider it rude when people DON'T wait for their change. When someone abandons their change, I have to keep it separate and try to find ways to reincorporate it into my till without it being off. I'd much rather just do things properly. You would be my favorite kind of customer!

mOOm said...

Taisha - why don't you just keep it? They are effectively giving you a tip.

bugbear said...

@mOOm

one reason she might not pocket the change is that in certain retail environments, pocketing money *looks* like improper behavior and can mark you for close and unfair scrutiny when and if there are cash discrepancies.